Barack Obama’s handlers had obviously wanted the candidate’s appearance in Germany to invoke comparisons to presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.
Yet their original choice of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate — venue of Reagan’s historic 1987 “tear down this wall” speech — was rejected by Germans who noted that Obama is merely a candidate, rather than an actual president, and objected to the Democrat’s appropriation of their symbol of national unity for a political campaign event.
Foiled in their original quest for an iconic backdrop, Team Obama accepted as an alternative speech location the plaza adjoining the Siegessaule (“Victory Column”) about a mile west of the Brandenburg Gate. Alas for the apostles of Hope, the symbolism of this site has proven “problematic,” as a spokesman for Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats told Der Spiegel.
History-minded Germans point out that the Siegessaule was erected to commemorate Prussia’s 19th-century victories over Austria, France and Denmark. Furthermore, the current location of the monument was chosen by none other than Adolf Hitler, as part of his ambitious plans for the architectural renovation of the German capital.
Team Obama’s difficulty in finding a suitable site for his Berlin speech is unlikely to get much attention from the TV news anchors traveling with the candidate this week. Yet it highlights the fundamental problem of Obama overseas excursion: It is a purely symbolic gesture from a campaign that increasingly seems more interested in symbols than substance.
IF THE BRAIN TRUST at Hope HQ can’t be bothered to study German history, perhaps they should try thinking of Obama in terms of TV history.
In 1977, when the 1950s-themed comedy Happy Days was in its fourth season, the writers were constantly seeking new ways to highlight the show’s popular bad-boy character Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli.
Originally a peripheral character in the program in which Ron Howard reprised his starring role in the 1973 hit film American Graffiti, Henry Winkler as the Fonz quickly upstaged his co-stars to become a cultural icon on Happy Days.
The show’s writers soon turned Fonzie into an all-purpose plot device, a sort of deus ex machina in a leather coat. And it was in this capacity that, in the climax of a special three-episode sequence in 1977, Fonzie performed his famous ski-jump over a shark tank.
“Jump the shark” has since entered the lexicon to describe that inevitable point at which any pop-culture phenomenon becomes absurdly passe and begins to decline — a watershed that Obama’s presidential campaign may cross before he returns from his weeklong overseas itinerary.
Before Obama’s departure, Charles Krauthammer asked of the Democrat’s desire to speak at the Brandenburg Gate, “Who is Obama representing? And what exactly has he done in his lifetime to merit appropriating the Brandenburg Gate as a campaign prop?”
Noting other evidence of Obama’s “elevated opinion of himself” — including last month’s flap over the candidate’s personalized presidential seal — Krauthammer asked whether there has “ever been a presidential nominee with a wider gap between his estimation of himself and the sum total of his lifetime achievements?”
PUBLIC CONSIDERATION of such questions will likely increase due to the lavish media attention Obama’s foreign venture has attracted. He took the news anchors of all three major broadcast networks with him, ensuring a week of saturation coverage and causing many to note the media’s apparent infatuation with the Democrat.
Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz observed on his CNN “Reliable Sources” program Sunday that none of the network anchors chose to travel with Republican Sen. John McCain on any of his three foreign trips since he clinched the GOP nomination. The media, Kurtz said, “seem to me to be covering Obama as if he were already president.”
Such excessive coverage could be enough in itself to cause a backlash, but Obama faces an enormous risk should he commit a faux pas on foreign soil. Calling the trip an “overseas gamble,” Jeff Greenfield of CBS said the presence of so many reporters in Obama’s entourage “makes the possibility of a misstep that much more dangerous.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?